New York Liberty introduce Walt Hopkins as eighth head coach in franchise history

The New York Liberty introduced Walt Hopkins as the team’s new head coach during a press conference at Barclays Center on Wednesday morning. Hopkins, who is the eighth head coach in franchise history, comes to New York after three years as an assistant coach with the Minnesota Lynx.

“We could not be more excited to welcome Walt Hopkins to the New York Liberty,” Liberty general manager Jonathan Kolb said. “Walt is not only a student of the game, he’s a student of people. His elite ability to connect and build relationships will go a long way towards establishing sustainable winning habits within a culture to which people want to contribute.”

Per team policy, terms of the agreement were not released. The contract of the Liberty’s previous head coach, former WNBA player Katie Smith, was not renewed after a 10-24 campaign last season. Hopkins is the first head coach hire under the team’s new ownership group led by businessman Joe Tsai. The team is set to play at Barclays Center, also home to another Tsai team, the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets.

“I couldn’t possibly be more excited to join the Liberty organization,” said Hopkins. “Few teams can lay claim to a more storied history, or a more passionate, dedicated, and knowledgeable fan base than this franchise. I’m honored to have the opportunity to help this tremendously talented group build upon the solid foundation that the players and staff have worked so hard to establish here in New York. I cannot wait to get started.”

The Coaching Search

When asked about the coaching search and how the hire came about, Kolb responded:

“It was a very, it was a large pool. And we did that on purpose. Over 20 people that we spoke with, and they had all different levels of backgrounds and experiences and qualities, which is where I mentioned at the outset of this conference. And we looked everywhere far and wide, whether it was the G League, Division I basketball. Just wanted to think a little differently and kind of whittle down from there. We needed somebody that has coached women, that relates to them that knows how to motivate. That was really important. And then we needed somebody that has worked with elite level athletes and can train them. And the more and more we kept looking at that, the more Walt’s name just made sense, and we got really excited about him.

In terms of women in sports, I think this is an exciting time. I understand the head coaching position is very public. But there’s ways right now that we can make changes, which is our basketball operations staff. Are women in equipment? Are they in analytics? Are they in management roles? There’s things that we’re looking at to help augment. And I’m very excited about it and I think we can be at the forefront there.”


Hopkins, who hails from Sparks, Nevada, was an assistant girl’s basketball coach at Edward C. Reed High School when Chicago Sky forward Gabby Williams was a student at the institution and won the Class 4A state title.

Previous to his time with the Lynx, Hopkins served as the academic coach for student-athletes at the University of California at Berkeley, was an assistant with Utah Valley University, and worked for the Tulsa Shock as the player development coach and director of basketball operations.

Hopkins is a graduate of the University of Nevada-Reno where he majored in English writing and minored in philosophy. He also holds master’s degrees from Harvard and UC Berkeley where he studied the social, developmental and educational psychology of coaching settings.

Previous Liberty Head Coaches

Name Start End Seasons Regular season Playoffs
W L Win% G W L Win % G
Nancy Darsch 1997 1998 2 35 23 .603 58 1 1 .500 2
Richie Adubato 1998 2004 5 100 78 .562 178 14 13 .519 27
Pat Coyle 2004 2009 5 81 90 .474 171 6 10 .375 16
Anne Donovan 2009 2010 2 29 22 .569 51 2 3 .400 5
John Whisenant 2010 2012 2 34 34 .500 68 1 4 .200 5
Bill Laimbeer 2013 2017 5 92 78 .541 170 3 5 .375 8
Katie Smith 2018 2019 2 17 51 .250 68 0 0 0
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